70 years ago, the greatest Canadian ballplayer of all-time was born: Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins.
When Fergie Jenkins entered the world in Chatham, Ontario on Dec. 13, 1942, plenty of Canadians had made it to the majors: 113 men, to be exact.
However, few of those 113 were memorable. More importantly, Canadians had become increasingly scarce in the majors. In terms of quantity, the golden age for Canadians appeared to be in the 1880s, when 40 Canadians made it to the majors.
Back in those days, few men west of the Mississippi or south of the Ohio made it to the majors. As major league baseball’s reach expanded across America, it seemed to dry up in Canada.
In the 1890s, 16 Canadians made it to the majors. Well, there was also contraction, with just 12 teams for most of those years. In the first decade of the 20th century, the number bounced up to 23. But in the 1910s, it collapsed to just eight—with none after 1916.
In the 1920s, six Canadians made it to the majors—and none played more than a half-dozen games. Just seven made it in the 1930s, though it included the first Canadian All-Stars, in George Selkirk and Jeff Heath.
A surge finally began in the early 1940s, and by the time of Fergie’s birth another 10 had made it to the majors. Still, the best Canadian players ever by then were guys like George Selkirk or 19th century batting champion Tip O’Neill. The all-time Canadian hits leader was George Wood, with 1,467. No Canadian had ever won 100 games. Russ Ford just missed, with 99.
More Canadians kept coming, but they were rarely notable. When Jenkins debuted in 1965, the most recent Canadian to play in 1,000 games was still Jeff Heath, who made it to the majors 29 years earlier. The next hitter to do it was Terry Puhl.
Thus when Jenkins retired, he was easily the best Canadian ballplayer of all-time. His 283 wins easily topped all his fellow members from Maple Syrup Land. No one else had half as many.
The only real challenger to Jenkins’ Canadian supremacy is former rightfielder Larry Walker. He was a terrific player and if he’d stayed healthy he could make a claim. But with under 2,000 games played in 17 seasons, he’s still second behind Jenkins.
Among current players the most notable Canadians are Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Eric Gagne, Ryan Dempster, and Votto. Morneau has been derailed by injuries, as was Gange. Bay and Dempster had their moments but weren’t even close to Jenkins. Votto is the only guy currently playing with a chance, but he’ll have to be mighty good for quite some time to catch Jenkins.
For now Jenkins can celebrate his 70th birthday knowing he’s still the best Canadian baseball player of all-time.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
2,000 days since Rod Beck dies at age 38.
3,000 days since Frank Robinson losses his 1,000th game, giving him a managerial record of 911-1,000.
5,000 days since Cristian Guzman makes his major league debut.
9,000 days since Steve Carlton appears in his final game.
10,000 days since Darrell Evans hits his 300th career home run.
25,000 days since Leon Culberson hits for the cycle.
40,000 days since the Pirates pitching staff allows a run after 56 straight scoreless innings.
1887 St. Louis sells star pitcher Parisian Bob Caruthers to the Brooklyn Dodgers for $8,250.
1910 Dan McGann, one of the “four others” mentioned in the 1907 trade, commits suicide at age 33.
1911 New York City politician James E. Gaffney purchases the Boston Braves. Actually, up until now they were the Boston Rustlers, and Gaffney will rename them the Braves, after his connections with New York’s Tammany Hall. (The legendary political center Tammany Hall had an Indian as a symbol). Under his ownership, the Braves will engage in a series of trades with the Giants that reputedly favor the Giants more than they should. There was considerable concern over unethical collusion.
1916 AL owners approve the sale of the Red Sox to Broadway play producer Harry Frazee. He’ll ruin the team.
1916 Hank Majeski, 1940s A’s middle infielder, is born.
1923 Larry Doby, Hall of Famer, is born.
1926 Carl Erskine, Dodgers pitcher, is born.
1927 AL owners OK having the Senators start their season one day early so the president can throw out the first pitch on Opening Day.
1927 Detroit trades Lu Blue and Hall of Fame outfielder Heinie Manush to the Browns for Elam Valgilder, Harry Rice and a player to be named later. Oddly enough, the same teams conduct a second trade that same day, with St. Louis sending Bing Miller to Detroit for Sam “Dolly” Gray.
1929 Billy Loes, pitcher, is born.
1934 Cincinnati purchases first baseman Johnny Mize from the Cardinals.
1935 Lindy McDaniel, early star reliever, is born.
1935 The Giants sign free agent Firpo Marberry, who was baseball’s first star reliever in the 1920s.
1940 Veteran umpire George Moriarty is transferred to the AL promotional department.
1950 Cleveland purchases Birdie Tebbetts from Boston.
1956 The Dodges trade of Jackie Robinson to the Giants is voided when Robinson refuses to report.
1966 Washington trades starting pitcher Mike McCormick to the Giants.
1970 Chick Gandil, ringleader of the Black Sox in the fixing of the 1919 World Series, dies at age 82.
1974 Arbitrator Peter Seitz rules the Catfish Hunter is now a free agent because team owner Charles O. Finley breached his contract.
1976 Josh Fogg, pitcher, is born.
1982 The White Sox sign free agent pitcher Floyd Bannister, who will help them win the 1983 AL West division title.
1982 Ricky Nolasco, pitcher, is born.
1989 The A’s sign free agent pitcher Scott Sanderson.
1989 AAA minors release eight umpires, most notably Pam Postema, the first female umpire to rise that high.
1990 Cleveland releases Mark McLemore, who will last more than a decade in major league baseball.
1990 The Mets sign free agent Terry Puhl, one of the better Canadians in major league history.
1993 Florida drafts 12-fingered reliever Antonio Alfonseca from Montreal in the minor league draft. (Really—Alfonseca has six fingers on each hand).
1994 Texas signs Mark McLemore, who is still several years from hitting his stride.
1996 The Cubs sign free agent starting pitcher Kevin Tapani.
1996 So long, Beantown—Roger Clemens signs as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
1999 Colorado trades third baseman Vinny Castilla to Tampa.
1999 In the Rule 5 draft, Florida claims Johan Santana from Houston—but then Florida immediately trades Santana to Minnesota for minor leaguer Jared Camp. I wonder what Camp is doing with himself these days.
1999 A three-way Rockies-A’s-Brewers trade sends Milwaukee third baseman Jeff Cirillo to Colorado.
1999 Tampa signs free agent Greg Vaughn.
2001 On his 25th birthday, Josh Fogg is traded alongside Kip Wells and Sean Lowe by the White Sox to the Pirates for Todd Ritchie. This turns out to be maybe the worst move Sox GM Kenny Williams ever makes, as Ritchie is a disaster in his only year in Chicago.
2001 The Mets sign free agent reliever David Weathers.
2003 St. Louis signs free agent Chris Carpenter. Between this and the Wainwright trade, Dec. 13, 2003 is a pretty good day for St. Louis acquiring pitching help.
2004 The Phillies claim Shane Victorino in the Rule 5 draft from the Dodgers.
2005 Baltimore signs free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez.
2005 The White Sox trade relief pitcher Damasco Marte to the Pirates for Rob Mackowiak.
2005 The Giants sign free agent Matt Morris.
2006 The Royals sign free agent pitcher Gil Meche. Toronto had made a play for him, but when they found out he’d gone to KC instead, Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricchardi ungraciously told reporters his club had “dodged on bullet” on this one.
2006 The Twins sign free agent Jeff Cirillo.
2006 The Padres sign free agent Greg Maddux for the next-to-last year of his career.
2007 The Mitchell Report comes out, naming 89 players as using of possessed steroids.
2010 Canada’s post office announces they’ll have a Fergie Jenkins postage stamp for black history month next February.